The Determinants of Health

The Public Health Agency in Canada claims to have learnt so much about the determinants of public health and now have a better picture of what to concentrate on in order to make sure that the citizens live healthier lives than they are currently living.  Based on the research that has been previously done, health factors beyond the health system of the country affect the well being of the citizen.  They allude that there are complex social interactions as well as economic factors and the physical environment, not forgetting the behaviors of individuals affecting the health of everyone at different stages of their lives.  The influence of these health determinants affects the health of a nation since they do not exist individually but each has a connection to the other (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2001). 

The Public Health Agency of Canada needs to use the findings of research on what determines the health of the nation so as to come up with the best strategies to deal with the problem of public health.  The impacts of illnesses do not only affect the infected person but also the people around this person who are going to be affected by his situation.  For example when one suffers from serious mental health problems, the people this person depends on for natural support will also be affected as well as all the people who will need to interact with this person.  The Canadian Mental Health Association has been making significant efforts at trying to deal with the mental health issues in order to improve the situation in the country.  They do this when they offer their support in the employment areas, their housing, the education services that these people have access to as well as giving social support and access to health services (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2001).  These support efforts help the clients to quickly recover from their situation or adapt to their circumstances effectively and still be able to live a comfortable life.

Research has brought forth evidence that the income of an individual greatly influences their health status.  This is because the higher the income of a person the higher his/her social status rises.  In this case the person is able to afford to buy healthy food and the right amounts compared to someone from a poor background who cannot even afford enough food for his family let alone quality nutritious food.  Stressful situations in life tend to affect the health of individuals especially depending on their ability to deal with these situations.  When one has higher income and social status, they are able to deal with these situations more effectively than those with low income and social status.  Evidence in Canada shows that the higher ranking Canadians exhibit better health than those in the lower social ranks (Frank, 1995).  This shows that Canadians have longer or shorter life expectancy as well as sickness rates compared to how much money they make and what rung of social status they are in. 

The other factor is social support networks.  This implies the kind of relationships that one has with their families, friends, peers and society at large.  When one has good relations with others around them, they find it easier to deal with difficult life situations.  Good social relations inculcates in one self confidence and self esteem and they feel a certain amount of control over his life and this makes them stronger to deal with the situations that face them in life (Frank, 1995).  These qualities seem to be able to keep sicknesses at bay.  It is evident that people with a lot of social contacts do not die prematurely compared to those who do not have a lot of people to rely on in times of trouble and not being able to confide in someone your problems seem to end up in developing stress related illnesses from time to time(Public Health Agency of Canada, 2001). 

The other determinant of health is biological and genetic endowment of individuals.  This is one of the most fundamental determinants of an individual’s health.  The genetic composition of a person determines how their bodies react to certain stimuli and their effects on their health status (Evans, 1994).  This sometimes predisposes these individuals to certain health conditions as well as certain diseases termed as genetic.  Neurobiological studies show that during development, the development process of the brain will affect the outcome in someone’s life.  This is why some of the richest people also suffer from some diseases that defeat them to treat despite the large sums of money they possess. 

Another determinant of someone’s health is their educational level and literacy.  The education offered to people equips them with appropriate knowledge and skills that in turn enables them to develop problem solving skills and therefore are able to deal with so many situations effectively.  This makes the information on healthy living and other health issues better understood and implemented by the educated people.  Employment is also affected by the levels of education that someone possesses (Frank, 1995).  The higher the education levels the better the employment and thus better living standards leading to better health.  The more educated people also tend to practice healthier living behaviors than their uneducated counterparts.  They tend to not engage in smoking, they workout more and eat healthier foods.

With these kinds of factors among others, affecting the health of a community, there is need to come up with social support networks that can help foster the understanding of these factors in order to help each other live healthily irregardless of one’s background or social status since health issues affect everyone.

The organization that we visited, the LiveWorkPlay is one organization that is trying to deal with the factors that affect the health of people in the country. This organization was founded in the year 1995 in response to concerns of youth with intellectual disabilities together with their families about the lack of supportive responses and services to the intellectually disabled individuals in Ottawa. They have ever since helped to shape and support the lives of people living with intellectual disabilities in the community.  In their organization they try to tackle intellectual disabilities and try to help those with these disabilities to cope with everyday living.  These people with intellectual disabilities cannot get enough education due to their mental status and therefore cannot be able to afford to earn a decent living since no employer would knowingly hire a mentally unstable person (Evans, 1994).  In this way their health needs cannot be well catered for and that is where this organization comes in to help.  The main problem here is the societal view on these intellectually challenged individual.  An example is that during the volunteer visit to the LiveWorkPlay organization it became evident that these people possessed some sort of knowledge since they had never been to college but knew quite a lot about college life, the courses offered and whatever kind of professions that these courses led to.  Most people would think that since they intellectually disabled, they do not know much and that they are not smart.  This is an example of a social determinant of health since once people think of them this way, they are stigmatized and do not get equal opportunities to prove themselves as other people do.  This means that society just needs to accept these people as they are and try to accommodate them and they can really learn to do so much on their own.  There are several activities that the people in this organization engage in among them fun activities like bowling and going to the ballet.  These people create a conducive environment for the intellectually disabled people to lead a normal life just like anyone else. They encourage people to treat them just like the average person since they are not so different from them and not to infantilize them unnecessarily.  From the volunteer activities it became evident that these people could handle themselves quite civilly in public and did not behave in any unruly manner as they were expected to (Evans, 1994).  People need to understand that intellectual disability is a genetic problem caused by the cognitive development of the individuals as one of the determinants of health.  With enough support and care the individuals with this disability can overcome the challenges it posses to them and be able to lead healthy lives.  Such organizations are very helpful in dealing with several determinants of health and if were allowed to crop up, would go a long way in ensuring that there is a healthy nation to live in and people’s life expectancy is longer.

There are many factors that would determine whether people remain healthy in a society or not.  The main determinants of a community’s health are the circumstances under which they live and the environment they live in.  Other factors that are considered to affect the health of a people are the genetics of the people, the amount of income people get, the level of education that they have reached, and the social and familial relationships existing in the community and among the community members (Evans, 1994).  The factor that most people think affects health status the most is the availability of healthcare services but this is really not the case.  The former factors affect the health of a people more than the latter.  It is difficult for a person to directly control their health as there are many determinants of health and so one cannot be blamed or accredited for the status of their health.

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